The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company.
In the wake of the west coast's dominance on the rap charts during the early 90s, 1993 was a year of transition for New York City hip hop. One of the first rap acts out of the five boroughs to lead the charge at bringing the city back to prominence was Wu-Tang Clan, an ensemble of rappers out of Staten Island and Brooklyn who would band together and become the most pivotal rap group of all time. The brainchild of artist/producer the RZA, Wu-Tang Clan took the underground by storm the previous year with their debut single, "Protect Ya Neck," a hard-boiled posse-cut on which seven of the crew members unleashed a flurry of rhymes that announced them as the hottest unsigned act on the east coast.
Catching the attention of Loud Records CEO Steve Rifkind, "Protect Ya Neck" earned the Wu-Tang Clan a record deal with the label, setting the stage for their debut album, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). Released on November 9, 1993, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) would be critically acclaimed by cultural tastemakers, who hailed it as one of the greatest debuts ever. With its raw production -- courtesy of the RZA -- and the myriad of jaw-dropping performances courtesy of the other members of the Clan, Enter the Wu-Tang helped shift the balance of power back over to the east coast by laying a foundation on which other rappers out of New York would build upon the following year. Peaking at No. 41 on the Billboard 200, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) would reach platinum status within a year of its release and make the Wu-Tang Clan bonafide superstars, individually and collectively.
More than two decades later, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) is regarded as one of the greatest albums ever. It continues to resonate with fans of all generations and backgrounds, which is a testament to its cultural importance.
In celebration of the album's 25th anniversary, REVOLT took a deep dive into Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) and ranked the entire album from top to bottom to determine the definitive song that defines this masterful body of work.
11. "Bring Da Ruckus"
The Wu-Tang Clan commenced their classic debut with "Bring Da Ruckus," an introductory salvo that finds Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, Inspectah Deck and GZA rhyming over drums lifted from "Synthetic Substitution" by Melvin Bliss and "CB#2" by Ralph Vargas and Carlos Bess. With RZA holding down the hook, the Clan throws down the gauntlet on "Bring Da Ruckus," drawing listeners into their chamber with a flurry of couplets that ooze with aggression.
On "Tearz," RZA spins a tale of a violent encounter with a rival that results in his younger brother's death. It's one of the more heartfelt selections on Enter the Wu-Tang. Featuring an appearance from Ghostface Killah, "Tearz" finds RZA putting his own twist on Wendy Rene's 1964 hit "After Laughter (Comes Tears)," lifting multiple elements from the original and revamping it into the organ-heavy composition fans know and love.
9. "Clan In Da Front"
The GZA gets his own solo spot on "Clan In Da Front," a cut from Enter the Wu-Tang that finds The Genius putting his lyrical guile on full display. Getting loose over vintage drums and piano keys provided by RZA, the Wu's elder statesman delivers a heater with the track. It's a selection that doubles as a rallying cry for the crew from Shaolin.
8. "Wu-Tang 7th Chamber"
RZA lifts drums from Lonnie Smith's 1970 cut "Spinning Wheel" for "Wu-Tang: 7th Chamber," a bruising free-for-all that features the group, sans Masta Killa. With Raekwon setting the tone with a vicious opening stanza, his fellow Clansmen follow The Chef's lead. As a result, they all turn in stellar performances and showcase their innate chemistry.
7. "Can It Be All So Simple"
The fourth and final single released from Enter the Wu-Tang is "Can It Be All So Simple." It pairs Wu-Tang members Raekwon and Ghostface Killah, who reminisce about their humble beginnings as hooligans and street toughs. Bolstered by a sample of "The Way We Were/Try to Remember" by Gladys Knight & the Pips, "Can It Be All So Simple" introduced Wu fans to an alternate chamber within the realm of Shaolin. On this track, street-wise slick talk reign supreme. It will forever be remembered as the song that birthed one of the most dynamic rap duos to ever match wits.
6. "Da Mystery of Chessboxing"
"Raw, Ima give it to ya/ With no trivia," U-God growls on "Da Mystery of Chessboxin'," a selection from the album that also includes verses from Method Man, Inspectah Deck, Raekwon, Ol Dirty Bastard, Ghostface Killah, and Masta Killa -- who anchors the track with his lone appearance on the album. Released as the B-side to "C.R.E.A.M.," "Da Mystery of Chessboxin'" was accompanied with a Kung-Fu themed video that captured the respective Clan members on a life-sized chess board. The video strengthened the group's mystique even further and made the song one of the more pivotal inclusions on 36 Chambers.
5. "Shame On A Nigga"
The Wu-Tang Clan got rambunctious on "Shame on a Nigga," one of the more impressive selections on the project. Boasting a standout performance from Ol' Dirty Bastard, as well as strong showings from Raekwon and Method Man, "Shame on a Nigga" stands as one of the more infectious cuts from the Wu's debut. It would play a big part in introducing the world to the idiosyncrasies of ODB.
4. "Method Man"
Out of all of the members of the Wu-Tang Clan, Method Man's performances on Enter the Wu-Tang were the most explosive. These acts resulted in the Staten Island rep being tagged as the breakout star of the group. One of Meth's most enthralling moments on the album came via "Method Man," the rapper's lone solo cut on 36 Chambers and the song that turned him into a household name. Released as the B-side to "Protect Ya Neck," "Method Man" would announce the rapper as a rising star and create massive anticipation for his debut solo album, Tical. It's one of the more beloved tracks from Enter the Wu-Tang.
3. "Protect Ya Neck"
In 1992, the Wu-Tang Clan unleashed their debut single, "Protect Ya Neck," which gained a strong buzz on college radio and helped spur the group's record deal with Loud Records. Revamping the original version of the song, "Protect Ya Neck" was released as the lead single from Enter the Wu-Tang. It had seven of the group's eight members making appearances. Forming like Voltron, the Wu swarmed over the RZA-produced track with a succession of rhyme spills that highlight their diverse skillsets and personalities. This resulted in an epic posse-cut that helped alter the course of hip hop history.
2. "Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nuthing Ta Fuck Wit"
Enter the Wu-Tang reaches a climax with "Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nuthing Ta Fuck With." It's a selection that captures RZA, Method Man, and Inspectah Deck trading couplets and putting the rap world on notice that the crew from Shaolin was not to be trifled with. Powered by a sample of Biz Markie's 1986 cut "Nobody Beats the Biz," as well as various Kung-Fu clips, "Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nuthing Ta Fuck With" is simply a tour de force and one of the signature selections on the Wu's ballyhooed debut.
There are songs throughout the history of rap that are deemed classic and then there's that rare class of songs that are nothing short of timeless. Wu-Tang Clan's "C.R.E.A.M." falls within that latter spectrum. Produced by RZA, who flips a sample of the Charmels' 1967 release "As Long As I've Got You," "C.R.E.A.M." begins with one of the most recognizable rap lyrics of all time by Raekwon -- who reels off an opening stanza that is equal parts biographic and visceral. Not to be outdone, Inspectah Deck anchors the tracks with an intricate verse of his own. On it, he drops heavy one-liners like "kick the truth to the young black youth" that has since become ingrained in the culture's consciousness and psyche. And with Method Man delivering the infectious hook to top it all off, "C.R.E.A.M." is undoubtedly one of rap's greatest anthems and the definitive song from one of the most impactful rap albums ever.
More by Preezy Brown: